December 1, 2020

“The Junk Drawer:” Kids these days and their dang cellphones

If my column has managed to keep your attention this far, this may or may not be the last edition of “The Junk Drawer.” I’m not yet graduating, but I will be transitioning into a new role next semester. If it returns in the fall, I hope you’ll continue reading it. If it is indeed my last column, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it. Maybe I’ve given you some trivial knowledge to start small talk. And perhaps you’ll explore subjects you never thought about as you empty your own junk drawers and see what’s inside.

I’m sure you’ve heard it before, and it doesn’t matter what age you are. It probably came from your grandparents or your parents.

“When I was your age, things were better.”

I love how they never exactly specify what was better. And if someone were to ask, “things” would probably be how cheap candy was or how fewer houses there were.

Well, those of you who are my age — those considered Generation X and Y — survived the information era. Those of you who raised us survived it as well. And with the way some things are going these days, I only feel like saying, “When I was younger, things were better.” That’s kind of sad considering I’m only 21. A lot of this has to do with how we use cellphones.

I look at those who are younger than me. Those who are in middle school and high school, a place I was in not too long ago myself, I can’t help but think about what’s changed in the few years since I’ve graduated high school.

Technology doubles each year. Look no further than our cellphones as evidence. I was in fifth grade (circa 2001) when my family got our first cellphone. It was a Christmas gift for my mom, primarily so she could call us when she was at the grocery store to find out what kind of cookies to pick up while she was there.

If my friend had something to say to me during a class in middle school, they would have to — heaven forbid — wait until class was over to say it to me. If my friends wanted to talk to me after school, they would have to call my home phone. I feel like 15 years from now I will have to tell people younger than me about the mystical creature that was a landline.

“When we wanted to talk to people, we had to use phones that were plugged into a wall in our homes,” I will tell children as they tweet it from their phones.

"The Junk Drawer" is a weekly column writter by Journal Opinions Editor Tim Doty

Our home phones used to mess with the Internet too. Someday, you can tell your kids you had to log off the Internet if someone in your house wanted to use the phone. Then you had to spend 90 seconds logging back on to AOL. With 3G hot spots and free Wi-Fi, we are losing what little patience we had left.

I miss the dial-up sounds as well.

I got my first cellphone during second semester of my freshman year of high school. I didn’t have texting until that summer, so if I needed to talk to someone, I still had to physically open (yes, open) the phone and call the person, and speak to them using my mouth. Now, you simply slide to unlock.

Some people prefer texting to actually talking on the phone, which is fine, but that also means social skills have declined. When I see you texting someone at 9 in the morning in class or during a movie in the theaters, what could you possibly be texting them about? How dare you wake me during class or interrupt while I’m watching “Hot Tub Time Machine” when your text tone goes off.

However, newer phones today are wonderful things. When we were once amazed at using high-speed DSL to Google something, we now simply look it up on our smartphones. If I want to look up last night’s box score, I could just check it on my phone.

Or I could, if I had a “smartphone.” I don’t own a smartphone, not even a simple phone. No, I own a remedial phone. Someone once joked that I may own the last remaining flip phone on Earth (that may actually be true). It’s a simple pay-as-you-go phone; something you associate with drug dealers. I can’t play “Temple Run” or “Draw Something,” unless the answer is the awesome background photo of Busch Stadium on my phone, or record a video. I can talk, text and play a futuristic game of “Tetris.” And on a good day, I can get three bars of service. But it does the job.

Despite my phone’s shortcomings, smartphones are a wonder for today’s journalist or to anyone in any profession. With the newest models, you can look up scores, get the latest headlines, check Twitter, update Facebook, play games against anyone around the world. Communication used to require telegraphs and a knowledge of Morse code, the patience to receive a letter, or a string and two tin cans. Now, with a cellphone, you can text message your friend studying abroad or studying down the street.

And of course, you can use phones to talk.

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